IN SEARCH OF COMMON GROUND

It seems like an exercise in futility for the “New Century of Forest Planning” group to be discussing and cussing forest planning &/ policy when we haven’t even agreed to the scientific fundamentals that serve as the cornerstone and foundation for any such discussions.

Below, I have developed a tentative outline of the high level fundamentals which any Forest Plan or Policy must incorporate in order to have a reasonable chance of meeting the desired goals. Until we can come up with a version of these “Forestry Fundamentals” that we generally agree to, we are pushing on a rope and wasting each other’s time unless our objective here is simply to snap our suspenders and vent on each other.

In your comments, please note the outline Item that you are responding to. Maybe we can revise my initial effort and come to some common ground. In doing so we would perform a service and make a step forward that would be useful outside of this circle instead of just chasing our tails. Coming to such an agreement would be a step towards developing a priority hierarchy and eliminating the internal conflicts which make current federal forest policy and law ambiguous and self-contradictory. Until we reach common ground, the current obviously unworkable policies will continue to doom our forests to poor health and consequentially increase the risk of catastrophic loss of those forests and the species that depend on them for survival.

– FORESTRY FUNDAMENTALS – 1st Draft 12/15/16

ESTABLISHED SCIENCE WHICH MUST BE INCORPORATED IN PLANNING FOR

THE SUSTAINABILITY OF FOREST DEPENDENT SPECIES

I) The Fundamental Laws of Forest Science which have been repeatedly validated over time, location, and species. They include:
— A) plant physiology dictating the impact of competition on plant health,
— B) fire science dictating the physics of ignition and spread of fire and
— C) insects and pathogens and their propensity to target based on proximity and their probability of success being inversely proportional to the health of the target.

— D) Species suitability for a specific site is based on the interaction between the following items, those listed above and others not mentioned:

— — 1) hydrology, the underlying geology and availability of nutrients in the soil.

— — 2) latitude, longitude, elevation, aspect and adjacent geography.

— — 3) weather including local &/ global pattern changes.

 

II) The Fundamental Laws controlling the success of endangered, threatened and other species dependent on niche forest types (ecosystems):

— A) Nesting habitat availability.

— B) Foraging habitat availability.

— C) Competition management.

— D) Sustainability depends on maintaining a fairly uniform continuum of the necessary niches which, in turn, requires a balanced mix of age classes within each forest type to avoid species extinguishing gaps.

— E) Risk of catastrophic loss must be reduced where possible in order to minimize the chance of creating species extinguishing gaps in the stages of succession.

 

III) The role of Economics:

— A) Growing existing markets and developing new markets in order to provide revenue to more efficiently maintain healthy forests and thence their dependent species.

— B) Wise investment in the resources necessary to accomplish the goals.

— C) Efficient allocation of existing resources.

 

IV) The role of Forest Management:

— A) Convert the desires/goals of the controlling parties into objectives and thence into the actionable plans necessary to achieve the desired objectives.

— B) Properly execute the plans in accordance with the intent of: governing laws/regulations and best management practices considering any economies.

— C) Acquire independent third party audits and make adjustments in management practices where dictated in order to provide continuous improvement in the means used to achieve goals.

— D) Adjust plans as required by changes: in the goals, as required by the forces of nature and as indicated by on the ground results.

— E) Use GIS software to maintain the spatial and associated temporal data necessary for Scheduling software to find and project feasible alternatives and recommend the “best” alternative to meet the goals set by the controlling parties.

What did I miss, what is wrong, what is right, what would improve this list of Forest Fundamentals?

33 Comments

  1. I would add a realistic assessment of the ecosystem services desired from the forest, so that an understanding of the relative give and take in any given area can be built. By this, I mean, to use the Tongass as an example, what is the value of a particular area as a timber production area, as a watershed for salmon production, as habitat for subsistence-desired species, as a place for residents and visitors to explore wilderness, etc., so that those values can be weighed and balanced in a public process.

    So, for example, in the new Tongass LRMP Amendment, a specific set of stream watersheds were identified as the “highest value” watersheds for salmon production (the Tongass 77) through a collaborative process involving ecologists, fisheries biologists, etc. from the agency, TNC, Trout Unlimited and other groups. Those areas will be set aside and protected from old-growth harvesting. The consensus is that those trees are more valuable as rearing habitat for annual runs of anadromous fish than as a place to harvest sawtimber once every 90 years.

    • Travis

      I would envision your concerns as coming under the broad umbrella of item “IV-A” (in the Forest Management section). Is that good enough? I’d like to keep this document as all inclusive without having to itemize every possible component of each item.

      Would you be ok with it if we changed “IV-A”
      FROM: “Convert the desires/goals of the controlling parties into objectives and thence into the actionable plans necessary to achieve the desired objectives.”
      TO:Identify and convert the desires/goals of the controlling parties into objectives and thence into the actionable plans necessary to achieve the desired objectives.’

      If you don’t agree, how would you rewrite what you consider to be the appropriate section of the document so that we can have that on record for a possible more detailed phase 2 in this endeavor?

    • Even Tongass “low-value” salmon streams would be more valuable for their fish than their Forest Service money-losing timber sales. This year the Forest Service spent about $22 million on Tongass timber that it sold for $345,000. Tongass fish beat timber hands down.

      Nor is the status quo about protecting timber industry jobs either — there are so few left in SE Alaska. It’s all about protecting $22 million in Forest Service timber support payroll.

      • Andy

        If the money loosing timber sales were done for the purpose of restoring or maintaining forest health then you are overlooking the possibility that the restoration/maintenance would have cost more than the timber sale if it had been done non-commercially. That is the point that so many people miss. Even if a timber sale looses money and improves the forest health, in all likelihood, the loss will be less per acre than the cost (?$1,000/ac?) would have been for a non-commercial restoration or health maintenance effort.

        On the other hand if the above wasn’t the case economically or silviculturally then I would agree with you entirely.

  2. Section II is a bug-a-boo. With such a wide array of endangered species, everywhere, active forest management will be seen as having impacts on one of those areas with overlapping protection/limitation zones. Remember, there are other layers of protections for rare plants, riparian zones, meadows (and their buffers), archaeology and hydrology. All of those could be subjected to differing opinions in court. I’m actually happy that Forest Service ‘Ologists’ are being supported in court, doing their due diligence in producing plans that satisfy Appeals Courts.

    There can be no broad set of simplified rules that will work for every forest. It is the “Agency Deference” that should allow us to produce Categorical Exclusions for both thinning and salvage projects. Of course, such CE’s would need to be collaborative and transparent. There would also have to be sensible rules that set limits to its use, as well as environmental standards. Yes, there would be resistance but, the Forest Service seems to be closing the legal loopholes, lately.

    • Larry

      Glad to hear that “the Forest Service seems to be closing the legal loopholes, lately”

      A) In regard to your bug-a-boo comment:
      – 1) If these overlapping protection zones don’t depend on the forest that encompasses them then they are simply reserved layers in the GIS that can be managed independently and the “Fundamentals” are not meant to address them since their continued existence (sustainability) doesn’t depend on forest cover. Here I am thinking of archaeology, meadows and meadow dependent species. Here I am also including wilderness and other areas where the pristine state is the goal and the increased risk of catastrophic loss has been recognized and deemed acceptable.

      – 2) On the other hand, if the species of concern is dependent on the ecosystem created by a specific forest (or particular stage in the succession of that forest) and the site characteristics then failure is guaranteed at some point in the future if succession is not planned for. We can see this in the case of the NSO where shade tolerant hemlocks are the succession forest following natural mortality of the shade intolerant forest that provides the habitat for the NSO. Combine that with the current lack of young regeneration of shade intolerant forests due to the lack of regeneration harvests and you have a NSO extinguishing gap in the succession pipeline that will be the death knell if they last that long.

      B) I agree with your statement that “There can be no broad set of simplified rules that will work for every forest.” That would be one size fits all management and another way to guarantee failure. However, I see that as coming under section IV-A “Convert the desires/goals of the controlling parties into objectives and thence into the actionable plans necessary to achieve the desired objectives.”

      Are we on the same page now or not?

  3. Thank you, Gil. I entirely agree with your motivations. I’ve stayed away from commenting on here for a while now because I felt like all that was going on was a bunch of “suspender snapping” as you call it. There is enough eclectic participation on this site that it has the potential to be a powerful tool to influence policy … and yet?

    To the point: I agree with Travis above. While you characterize his concern as falling under IV-A, I think it would be better situated under III-C, or possibly an additional III-D catchall. Something like:

    III) The role of Economics:
    — A) Growing existing markets and developing new markets in order to provide revenue to more efficiently maintain healthy forests and thence their dependent species.
    — B) Wise investment in the resources necessary to accomplish the goals.
    — C) Efficient allocation of existing resources.
    —D) Forest-wide economic assessment of Ecosystem Services to ensure the efficient application of III-A, B, & C.

    • Eric

      Thanks for your input.

      As I mentioned in my reply to Travis: “I’d like to keep this document as all inclusive without having to itemize every possible component of each item.”

      Based on your wording, I can definitely see III-D as part of III-C for now and if we get to a 2nd draft we could vote on whether to expand the outline and list it under III-C or IV

      Is that agreeable?

  4. So long as people use natural resources, the forest management equation MUST be: social, economic, and ecological. For the past 2-3 decades, the economic part has been sorely missing on federal lands and, as a consequence of looking primarily at the social and ecological parts, without a corresponding reduction in consumption, we’ve been looking elsewhere to meet the economic. [Our highly urbanized society seems to have forgotten that our very existence depends on the extraction and use of natural resources.]

    In other words, we’re ignoring the economic part to the point that, even when exports are taken into consideration, we are net importers of our softwood and foreign wood is now a third of our consumption. That means we are exporting our mills, jobs, tax revenues, etc. as well as the environmental costs of our consumption.

    To ignore the economic part of the equation while we export the costs of our consumption is simply not ethical.

    As representatives of the American citizenry, our elected officials need to determine what the desired outcomes and objectives are for federal lands (e.g., clean water, threatened species, recreation, and so forth). At this point, they can then, using Gil’s Forestry Fundamentals, charge the land managers, the real experts, with attaining those outcomes and objectives. Until those elected officials acquire the necessary expertise and knowledge of an experienced land manager, they must hire and then allow those people to do what they are trained and hired to do.

    Ultimately, a forester’s job is to meet the landowner’s goals and objectives.

    • Dick

      This whole effort is an attempt to find common ground so that we can inform the Social “Controlling Interests” over our forests in order to eventually have healthier forests rather than continue down the same path of turning healthy forests into unhealthy forests.

      As you say: “our elected officials need to determine what the desired outcomes and objectives are for federal lands (e.g., clean water, threatened species, recreation, and so forth).”
      The objective of this effort is to inform the social controlling interests (individuals, associations and other collaborative groups) of the Fundamentals required to provide sustainable services such as clean water, protecting threatened species, recreation, and so forth. If a group like ours can’t agree then there isn’t much hope. However, there may be hope if the public comes to understand that in some situations certain goals may not be compatible with each other and if they understand that “preservation” doesn’t necessarily lead to long term sustainability.

      I think that we are pretty much on the same page. Do you agree?

  5. You make no distinction between public and private forests (with different “controlling parties”). The goals, decision process and the role of economics would be quite different.

    On public lands, I see a current pinch point being a conflict between IID and IIE. There are different degrees of willingness to increase risk in the short-term to reduce risk in the long-term, and questions and uncertainty about the science pertaining to these risks.

    • Jon

      “controlling parties” may have been a poor choice of words but I used it specifically to encompass both public and private. Especially on public lands, the controlling interests are not always straightforward as you well know. In one location it could be the district forester, in another area it could be a politician and in another area it might be the collaborative efforts of multiple groups with highly diverse interests who have found that they get more of what they want if they work together rather than insisting on their way as the only way. So, I’m open to a better choice of words that encompasses all ownership type and goals.

      I agree that various controlling interests would have different “goals, decision process and the role of economics”. However, the underlying science for forestry and it dependent species, principles of goals setting and decision making are the same. The difference would only be in how they were applied. In my opinion, this 1st draft effort has to stick to the fundamentals of established science in order to have any hope of finding common ground. As I implied elsewhere, we have to establish the foundation long before we start putting the rafters up.

      You are absolutely correct in saying: “On public lands, I see a current pinch point being a conflict between IID and IIE”. That is exactly the problem that has driven me to undertake this shot in the dark. IID and IIE are valid, fundamental scientific statements, yet we are making policy, laws, plans and implementing without recognizing that we are contradicting science and reducing the chance for success. If we don’t have healthy forests then we are increasing the chance for non-sustainability. In effect we are talking about “preserving” our forests instead of “protecting” a dynamic entity which can not be “preserved” except in formaldehyde.

      As to your statement: “There are different degrees of willingness to increase risk in the short-term to reduce risk in the long-term”. I thing that that is the opposite of current “willingness”. Can you give examples of that? What I see in practice on our federal forests is that the controlling interests, for the most part, seem willing to risk the long term sustainability of our forests in order to “preserve” the view that they are used to seeing when they travel, hike, hunt and etc. in our federal forests.

      Finally, in regard to your observation that there are: “questions and uncertainty about the science pertaining to these risks”. The key word that you have used is “uncertainty”. That is life. Everything is probabilities. The federal forests are being smothered by misguided love like an overprotective parent. On our federal forests it results in analysis paralysis. A determination by someone that they found four fires that burned previously thinned stands which they then deem to prove that thinning, controlled burns and fire breaks don’t work is a demonstration of their lack of understanding the science involved. Of course they don’t work when applied on 45% slopes in the midst of a drought with low humidity, high winds and temperatures consistently in the 80’s. Even when everything is just right they still might not work because of some unidentified factor or human error in judgment. But the fundamental physics of fire science (I-B) when appropriately applied will reduce the odds of an initial strike or match or untended campfire turning into a catastrophic loss. That same science combined with reasonably good detailed weather forecasts can also serve to tell management when to let a slow moving unplanned fire burn and when and where to cut it off before it gets into stands with a higher probability of turning into a crown fire or at an opportune location to cut it off before the risk of an unfavorable weather change.

      If the fundamental science outlined at the start of this thread is followed where possible, forests will be healthier, have lower risk of catastrophic loss and the size of any loss will be significantly decreased. This will be true no matter who owns or controls the decision making for the forest. This will be even more important where and when long term warming is expected. If commercial operations can be used to reduce or offset some of the costs then why shouldn’t we use them as long as third party audits are in place to identify and eliminate the bad apples and continuous process improvement is in place to increase efficiency and efficacy?

      • My values say that the burden should be on proving the benefits of action, and doubts should be resolved in favor of inaction, and I don’t think we’re going to agree on that. I think something just a little short of analysis paralysis would therefore be a good thing. I don’t believe this is “contradicting” science; it is just being conservative in acting. There are a lot of doubts and uncertainty, but in some places, some action would be warranted. I just don’t think it should be the default position for public lands, which seems to be what you are advocating for most forests

        The pervasive example of short-term vs. long-term tradeoffs is the professed need to log big, old trees. I see little science that says we need to do this. On the Francis Marion, it was logging red-cockaded woodpecker foraging trees because they are somehow a long-term threat to the woodpecker (even with regular underburning). In the southern Sierras it is logging big, old trees in spotted owl habitat because they supposedly make it more likely the forest would burn. I generally don’t buy the argument that there is going to be a shortage of young forests that will cause problems diversity problems at some point, when viewed over a large, multi-ownership area, and natural disturbance is accounted for. While I haven’t been convinced by scientific arguments that action is needed, I do see economic and political arguments for logging that reduce my trust in the attempts at scientific arguments.

        • Jon

          Let me start by thanking you for taking this discussion seriously. Your input is greatly appreciated. If nothing else comes of it, we have a better understanding of the why’s behind everyone’s position. I think that we all have acted civilly in this discussion.

          Regarding your statement that: “My values say that the burden should be on proving the benefits of action, and doubts should be resolved in favor of inaction”.
          If it is established science validated over time, place and extensive operational trials then it has been proven. Anything unproven is simply theory/supposition. Let’s talk specifics about what is proven taking it one bite at a time beginning with the section on proven laws of forest science.
          Would you agree that these items are proven scientific facts that cannot be denied:
          I) The Fundamental Laws of Forest Science which have been repeatedly validated over time, location, and species. They include:
          — A) plant physiology dictating the impact of competition on plant health,
          — B) fire science dictating the physics of ignition and spread of fire and
          — C) insects and pathogens and their propensity to target based on proximity and their probability of success being inversely proportional to the health of the target.
          — D) Species suitability for a specific site is based on the interaction between the following items, those listed above and others not mentioned:
          — — 1) hydrology, the underlying geology and availability of nutrients in the soil.
          — — 2) latitude, longitude, elevation, aspect and adjacent geography.
          — — 3) weather including local &/ global pattern changes.
          Can you disprove any of the above?

          In regard to federal forests I have no problem with being conservative in our approach. In fact, I don’t think that budgets or the public will allow these laws to be implemented everywhere that risk of catastrophic loss has been increased because of failure to act in accordance with the proven (established) science. What I would like to see happen is for everyone in management to use these proven facts to point out the increased risk of catastrophic loss and the consequences to endangered species to water quality and other infrastructure and etc. That would force the “controlling interests” to acknowledge that they had been advised as to the potential consequences of their decisions. After that I have no problem with the soldiers in the trenches clicking their heels together, saluting and saying “Yes! Sir! or “Yes! Ma’am!”.

          I am not advocating any default position as I have plainly said in this thread and elsewhere on this site many times. I accept that national parks, wilderness and other restricted areas aren’t going to be logged or have any other silvicultural treatments applied or have fire breaks and fire access roads placed in them.

          For discussion let’s limit our discussion to the total of 193 million acres of USFS acreage as of 9/30/2016. From that let’s remove wilderness or otherwise reserved acreage of 46.1 million (24%) which leaves us with 146.8 million acres not currently designated as restricted as laid out at the end of this comment.

          Now let’s talk about your vague comment: “I think something just a little short of analysis paralysis would therefore be a good thing”. How do we define “something just a little short of analysis paralysis”? I would suggest that analysis paralysis is only pertinent to the 146.8 million acres and the cause is principally defined at the present by the threat of suit if the USFS doesn’t do everything perfectly. So the question now becomes how do we allocate those 146.8 million? I’d suggest that 3 piles would be a reasonable approach. The 1st pile would be those additional lands upon which everyone can agree that we’d love to designate as restricted from appropriate forest management because we can live with the risks of leaving nature to do her own thing. The 2nd pile would be the analysis paralysis or potential litigation pile where honest disagreements exist and the parties believe in their cause sufficiently to sue if they didn’t get their way. This 2nd pile would be designated as “subject to joint appraisal by the designated representatives of the controlling interests”. The intent of the appraisals would be to move the contents of pile 2 into pile 1 or 3 as prioritized analyses were completed. The 3rd pile would be those acreages where there are no scientific concerns that would interfere with using sound, sustainable forest practices to improve the health of the forest as needed. Even if pile #3 started out with 0 acres we’d at least have a plan to eventually get past analysis paralysis.

          Any further thoughts?

          USFS ACREAGE BY USE DESIGNATION

          9/30/2016 USFS TABLE #

          TOTAL: 192,920,581 1

          RESERVED: WILDERNESS 36,575,763 9
          PRIMATIVE 0 10
          SCENIC 254,716 12
          RECREATION 3,068,271 15
          REFUGES & PRESERVES 1,212,110 17
          MONUMENTS 4,304,435 18
          VOLCANIC MONUMENTS 169,347 19
          HISTORICAL 7,793 20
          PROTECTION 64,055 22
          SPECIAL MANAGEMENT 313,158 23
          BOTANICAL 8,509 24
          RECREATION MANAGEMENT 50,624 25
          SCENIC RECREATION 13,011 26
          SCENIC WILDLIFE 44,519 27
          TOTAL RESERVED 46,086,311

          TOTAL NOT CURRENTLY RESTRICTED: 146,834,270

          • There are those people who insist that there should only be ONE pile of hands-off preservation. Who appear to be fine with letting “Whatever Happens”, happen. Who advocate for “larger and more intense wildfires”. And those who think we need more mortality on our forests, and will file lawsuits to stop all timber projects. How will we address those realities?

          • I won’t challenge any of your statements about science. I will only say that we are more confident about how trees grow and produce wood than we are about how ecosystems work and produce fish and wildlife. We probably also know more about the way ecosystems are/were than the way they will respond to management, or the probability and effect of unplanned future disturbances. And the devil will be in the details.

            When I worked as a planner on the Mt. Hood we split the forest into 3 piles along similar lines. The middle one was anywhere that was going to have timber harvest but had known conflicts likely to reduce timber yields.

            In response to Larry’s comment, I think you could add to the 3rd pile those areas where everyone would agree that large wildfires are not desirable. So this pile would include areas that would be managed as firebreaks and/or for timber volume where regular vegetation management would occur reliably at a sustainable rate.

            To put this in national forest terms, these lands would be suitable for timber production in a forest plan. The middle category, where sustained yields can not be agreed to in advance, would not be considered suitable for timber production, but timber harvest would be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Because of the difference in certainty, the Forest Service would distinguish between the two in making timber volume projections.

            Conceptually, we may not be far apart, but with my bias towards inaction I’m going to argue for more acreage in the “uncertain” pile, and less acreage in the pile that commits national forest lands to “the purposeful growing, tending, harvesting, and regeneration of regulated crops of trees” (the definition of “timber production” on national forest lands).

            • I’m definitely following the discussion here, and have no objections thus far. I agree with Jon’s precautionary principle approach. And further agree with his approach to the “piles.” I can say, having had extensive discussions on the matter with my USFS Fuel Planner Wifey, that the discretion to plan projects on a case-to-case basis in the “middle pile” would be very well received.

            • Jon

              I like your approach to the piles and would say it is spot on with me.

              What has happened with that approach and how widespread in the USFS was/is it?

              What was the response of the enviros? Did they pretty much work with you or did they focus on trying to move items in pile #3 into pile #2 or from #2 into #1 or what? What was the proportion of the forest acreage in each pile?

              • First understand that we’re talking about 30 years ago. I was not there when they finished it or implemented it. It was also overtaken by the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994, and that likely changed the way it was implemented. You can look at the plan here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3841035.pdf
                There is a table on page “Four-133” that shows the acres in each pile (there were two additional piles for areas with special legislative requirements).

                The Mt. Hood was one of the last to finish their first NFMA plans, so I don’t think it was copied much, if at all. Most forests seem to like to create their own wheel (like we did on the Mt. Hood), but I remember running across other forests that had done something similar.

                Second understand that the key point of controversy here is probably whether the land is suitable for timber production or not. Back when this plan was produced, the question was whether management areas should be “A” areas (not suitable) or “B” areas (suitable with restrictions), and the enviros wanted “A.”

                The Planning Handbook for the 2012 Planning Rule creates three categories: “lands suitable for timber production,” lands “Where timber harvest will be used as a tool for purposes other than timber production in order to protect other multiple use values,” and lands where timber harvest is not allowed. This is a little different from the Mt. Hood because there are 2 unsuitable piles, and 1 suitable. I think the designation of lands suitable for timber production will be important again (if only because of the way it mysteriously interacts with the budget process).

                The Planning Rule allows lands to be suitable for timber production only where “timber production is compatible with the desired conditions or objectives by the plan for those lands.” According the Planning Handbook, this means, a “flow of timber can be planned and scheduled on a reasonably predictable basis” given diversity and other sustainability requirements. This question is where I believe the suitability discussion should focus in forest plan revisions, where the Forest Service should clearly document the scientific support for its decision, and where I think, “if in doubt, throw it out” (of the timber base) because it is going to controversial to plan timber sales there and the projected outputs are not reliable.

            • There are substantial areas where thinning is possible but, the terrain isn’t ‘tractor ground’. Those acres should counted towards the ‘proper balance’. Additionally, is there a consideration that some lands wouldn’t be logged, unless they burned (salvage)? Couldn’t that be in its own pile? That pile could have its own CE, as well as its own limitations requiring sensible, well-rounded salvage plans (as they should be).

              • Larry

                your comment triggered a thought that has been in the back of my mind for a long time.

                What do you think of a strategy where logging areas were arranged to serve as buffers to areas that were “hands off” in an effort to somewhat reduce the risk to said “hands off” forest components?

              • Forest plans should include locations and/or circumstances where salvage logging may occur, which could include unsuitable lands (which is specifically recognized in NFMA). I don’t think it is its own pile because it overlaps the others. Thinning could be addressed the same way (again presumably only an issue on unsuitable lands). (Both “salvage” and “thinning” would need accepted definitions.)

                I assume the areas where logging is “hands on” could provide a buffering effect.

                • Jon

                  Re “salvage” and “thinning” on “unsuitable lands” i.e. piles 1 and 2 (until pile 2 is resolved) is part of the dynamics of a forest. Whether it is handled as a date and location specific exception or as a temporary and limited reclassification of a location to pile 3 really doesn’t matter imho.

                  As far as this thread goes, these sort of items are a little far into the weeds and probably would have to be defined at the regional level by stand/forest type, usage classification, and circumstances. But even at those levels, situations would probably arise that wouldn’t fit in any preconceived definition box and would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

                  This is good for the discussion but unless someone shows me where I am wrong, I don’t see where it could be included in a list of Universally Applicable, Established Science, Validated by replications over time, place and operational practice. In this thread I am looking for those scientific fundamentals that underlie and therefore whose impacts must be considered when making any forest decision for any species, location or circumstances.

                  Am I on the same page with you?

                  • “In this thread I am looking for those scientific fundamentals that underlie and therefore whose impacts must be considered when making any forest decision for any species, location or circumstances.”

                    Yes, if this thread is tackling a more narrowly defined problem of identifying relevant scientific fields. My responses were more directed at the degree of consensus about the science, how science is used in decision-making, and the decision-making process itself.

  6. Commendable effort, but these things are very complicated and far form settled. For instance,

    — new science shows clearly that trees both cooperate and compete;
    — the physics of fire ignition and spread are highly complex. logging tends to both increase and decrease fire hazard;
    — susceptibility to insects has to do with tree vigor but also genetic fitness. Logging might be removing the trees that are most likely to survive and pass on fitness;
    — threatened & endangered species have a wide variety of habitat needs often unique to each species, so hard to generalize about, but in any case not just nesting and foraging, but also hiding cover, thermal refugia, dispersal/connectivity, etc.
    — managing for a “balanced mix of age classes” is an agro-forestry concept, not an ecological concept. Trees are long lived. Forest landscapes in the PNW spent relatively little time in the early seral stages (0-80 yr) and relatively much more time in the late seral stages (80-500 yr);
    — reducing “catastrophic loss” is contrary to ecological science. High severity fire is a natural process. Many species actually evolved to take advantage of post-disturbance legacies and post-disturbance niches. Taking a long-term view, there may be an ecological deficit of habitat types associated with high severity fire.
    — economic factors should account for the fact that the timber industry booms and busts and tends to destabilize communities;

    • 2ndLaw

      Please read my reply to the others above to get a fuller understanding of the scientific underpinnings necessary to provide sustainability for the mix of forests and the other species that depend on them for their habitat.

      A) Regarding: “these things are very complicated and far form settled”
      — 1) As I mentioned somewhere above, I am well qualified to address the complications.
      — 2) In my response to Jon I address the question as to how settled these things are. They are settled as long as you understand that forestry, like life, is all about probabilities. Trees are like humans. If you practice the established scientific principles you won’t always get it right because of some exogenous variable but you will significantly increase the odds of success just as surely as properly maintaining your car, wearing a seat belt, turning your cell phone off when driving and etc. will increase the odds of extending your lifespan.

      B) Regarding: “— new science shows clearly that trees both cooperate and compete;”
      This is not new unless your only understanding of plant physiology comes from watching Avatar. My education addressed that in the ’60s. This is all encompassed under the broad item I-D-1 in the outline at the top of this thread.

      C) Regarding: “— the physics of fire ignition and spread are highly complex. logging tends to both increase and decrease fire hazard;” Actually the physics is pretty simple to understand. What is difficult is the interaction between the wind speed and direction, moisture content and structural arrangement (vertically and horizontally) of the fuels but even that is mostly a matter of proximity where probability of spread and speed of spread is directly related to proximity and density of fuels. So if we have jumbled trash logs left near the lower limbs adjacent to an overly dense stand – Lookout. So we even understand the reason for variations in the impact of logging on fires.

      D) Regarding: “— susceptibility to insects has to do with tree vigor but also genetic fitness. Logging might be removing the trees that are most likely to survive and pass on fitness;” What difference does genetics make if analysis paralysis keeps you from taking action to keep the stand density down in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic loss to fire? Even ignoring that, removals will be in proportion to the distribution of the genetic variations.

      E) Regarding: “— threatened & endangered species have a wide variety of habitat needs often unique to each species, so hard to generalize about, but in any case not just nesting and foraging, but also hiding cover, thermal refugia, dispersal/connectivity, etc.” If the forest and dependent species are lost because of excessive competition leading to fire, insects or disease – what difference does it make? In addition, if you were afraid to cut old growth and didn’t create any new replacement stands as a result, you’ve painted yourself into a corner. When all of the older stands and their currently existing replacements die out, you will have a gap equal to the number of years when you didn’t create a reasonable acreage of new stands. What will those species do when there is an insignificant amount of habitat for those species to move to because you didn’t plan for succession?

      F) Regarding: “— managing for a “balanced mix of age classes” is an agro-forestry concept, not an ecological concept. Trees are long lived. Forest landscapes in the PNW spent relatively little time in the early seral stages (0-80 yr) and relatively much more time in the late seral stages (80-500 yr);” See “E” immediately above. To put it another way, if you don’t create early seral stages within dispersal range of approximately the same acreage as the late serial stages die off and as are replaced by an unsuitable forest type that is closer to the climax type then you will have an extinction causing gap. Get a pencil and paper or a spreadsheet and move those stands from age o to 500 (calendar years as the rows and columns for the mean stand age) and see what happens if you don’t create new stands of sufficient acreage to replace the lost stands at the end of the life cycle. You can then see what happens to the total acres in late serial stage when you don’t create new stands within dispersal range and you can see how desperate the situation becomes the longer it takes for you to wake up and realize that you are defeating your whole purpose.

      G) Regarding: “— reducing “catastrophic loss” is contrary to ecological science. High severity fire is a natural process. Many species actually evolved to take advantage of post-disturbance legacies and post-disturbance niches. Taking a long-term view, there may be an ecological deficit of habitat types associated with high severity fire.” Reducing “catastrophic loss” is not contrary to ecological science. It is one aspect of the total compendium of ecological science and should be applied only where the controlling interests are not willing to accept the higher risk of loss to the forest and or other species which haven’t evolved to take advantage of large disturbances. Nature manages by catastrophe. If you want to save certain species you may have to manage to insure continuity within their dispersal range. In other words you have to decide how to provide for disturbance dependent species and non-disturbance dependent species. Nature doesn’t care whether species survive or not. Mankind does. Nature doesn’t care where its disturbance strikes. Nature has killed off many more species than man ever will. We seem to desire to slow nature down by providing more continuity (i.e. doing whatever it takes to save NSO’s in an attempt to stop evolution and survival of the fittest as evidenced by the shooting of barred owls).

      H) Regarding: “— economic factors should account for the fact that the timber industry booms and busts and tends to destabilize communities;” Can’t you say that about any industry? Look at Detroit. If we follow your logic, we shouldn’t make cars or buggies to be pulled by horses. Just like farmers and real-estate people and many others, you save in the good years to get through the bust years or you have shortened your life span. It is another example of survival of the fittest. Some resort to a side business to help them through the tough times. That is life and always has been. The forestry and wood products industry, when subjected to audits for compliance, can provide the very services that we need to make more of our federal forests healthier at a reduced cost compared to performing those services without receiving any revenues. If we want to get away from consuming non-renewable resources that are extracted from their virtually permanent storage underground, we will have to get our ubiquitous plastics, much of our fuels and an incomprehensible number of our other products that we depend on from our forests.

      I know that we generally have opposing views on this site but I believe that you have the same love for our forests, their denizens and the critical environmental role that these forests play in our global environment. Does anything that I have said bring you closer to understanding why so much of what is happening in our federal forests is self-defeating in terms of protecting those forests and the species that depend on them?

    • 2ndLaw

      In an attempt to allay your concerns about a “balanced mix of age classes” and “post-disturbance legacies and post-disturbance niches”, I will expand on my previous responses as follows:

      At this high level of an outline of the Forest Related Fundamental Science, these two valid concerns of yours are addressed by the more specific science that comprise the foresters tool bag that would be drawn upon in executing the outline Item IV-A.

      I and most foresters recognize that most disturbance dependent species are shade intolerant while shade tolerant species might or might not regenerate in post-disturbance conditions. Disturbance dependent (shade intolerant) species are for the most part comprised of a narrow distribution of ages within the same stand soil, hydrology, aspect and etc. characteristics within the area of a single shared disturbance event. Hence they are more dependent on a more balanced distribution of age classes than shade tolerant species. On the other hand, shade tolerant species tend to have a wider distribution of ages within a stand of mixed species but the more species specific the goals, the more work involved in having a system of regular interventions of similar acreages to remove the undesired species and provide for regeneration of the desired species. The forester’s tool bag and the species specific science contained therein recognizes the different harvest/regeneration options and would be utilized as appropriate for the goals determined in IV-A. As a result, I can’t see including the details of all of the options for all of the potential goals and site conditions at this level of an outline of “Fundamentals of Forest Science”. There is a significant collection of published species specific silvicultural documents that deal with each species which can be found in any forester’s toolbox/education/experience.

      Note: if we get to a stage 2 of this document, I will consolidate II-A and II-B into one outline item specifying something like “a full range of necessary habitat niches including the need for breeding diversity, nesting, foraging, dispersal, thermal protection and etc.”

      How does this sit with you?

      • Larry

        I am a little unclear as to how to read your suggestion. So bear with me as I look at two possible interpretations of your comment/request.

        A) “explain to all of us how the reality of today’s man-caused firestorms affects each and every item you state above”.
        Unless I am totally misunderstanding your question, I would say that the physics of ignition and fire spread apply to “man-caused firestorms” the same as to any other firestorm given the same conditions.

        B) “Impacts on humans must be addressed.”
        If this was your question, I’d address it on an expected damage cost basis. Action required expected damages would be calculated for each location specific condition of concern as the weighted cost of the probability of potential outcomes times the expected required post incident damage repairs or outlays required for incident control from the outcome and summed for each location specific condition of concern. The sum of the outcome probabilities for each location specific forest condition would add up to 1 (100%). If there were three possible outcomes we’d have for example:
        20% chance of $3,000,000 damages = 0.2 X 3,000,000 = $600,000
        40% chance of $500,000 damages = 0.4 X 500,000 = $200,000
        40% chance of $0 damages = 0.4 X 0 = $0
        So, we’d have expected damages of $800,000 if we didn’t take risk reduction actions. However, it is still subjective since the probabilities and anticipated damages are basically educated guesses and there would be inconsistencies in making those determinations depending on who did the calculation and whether they had just missed bagging a big buck earlier that morning. The next step would be to use mathematical optimization to select the group of location specific forest conditions that would do the most good within the budget. This is no different than what some corporations do to make sure that their capital budget is optimally allocated between contending projects with different Net Present Values or internal rates of return.

        What did I miss?

  7. Gil: Switching to this thread in response to your request. Not trying to be dismissive, but if you really want to understand my thinking and experiences on which my views are based, please read my book Toward A Natural Forest (OSU Press April 2015) (available at towardanaturalforest.com). Anything less will be a mere summary.

    Briefly, I believe prudent forestry practices occupy quite a wide spectrum. Precautionary principles should always apply, as in true conservation. Yes, I tend to favor mature and old-growth forest conditions, all things being equal. Commerce welcome. I’ve seen plenty of timber mgmt in my day; true forest mgmt is more rare. Which do I think is worse: vast forests devoted to 40yr old plantations, or forests with evidence of bug kill and fire? I’ll take the latter, thank you. Generally, our drive for commerce resulted in simplified forests and reduced diversity, and had horrible unintended consequences. I do not support a totally hands-off, do nothing approach. I do favor light hands, humility, and keeping fundamental forest functionality intact. We should talk sometime on the phone.

    • Jim

      Thanks for your reply. Your resume is certainly impressive. I will probably get around to ordering your book.

      Since you “do not support a totally hands-off, do nothing approach”, which of the outline items at the top of this post do you agree constitute the fundamental science that you would use to indicate when and would underlie how you would intervene when appropriate.

      My main objective in this thread is to find out what the members of this group can agree on as a basis for improving my and hopefully others interaction on this site. As you have observed, I totally misread your previous comments on this site because of what your comments emphasized, where the passion was and how you interpreted other’s comments. We all do it on this site, I am hoping that a set of agreed upon scientific fundamentals that apply in any forest will help us to be more constructive here or at least understand each other’s passion which generally turns the conversations into meaningless sniping sessions.

      I do not see our federal forests as ever being turned into 40-80 year old plantations on the west coast nor 25-35 year old plantations on the east coast. My desire is to find out what can be done to improve the current health of our federal forests and therefore decrease the risk of catastrophic loss to those forests and the species that depend on them for habitat, reduce the infrastructure cost, water quality degradation, control costs etc. from catastrophic loss.

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